Population growth, larger cities, increasing health awareness: the fresh fruit and vegetable business is having to tackle these trends to an ever greater degree each year. That’s according to Fruit Trade 2025, a special report prepared by leading Swiss think-tank the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and released free of charge by leading industry trade fair Fruit Logistica, in collaboration with its official cooperation partner Fruitnet Media International.
UN forecasts suggest that the world’s population will reach 9.7bn by 2050. The big question is, will it be possible to feed all of those people using traditional farming methods? Urban growth is making suitable farmland even more scarce, while demand for fresh fruit and vegetables – partly the a result of increasing health awareness – continues to rise. Thirty years from now, even more food will need to be produced on what is a dwindling production area. As a result, scientists are under extreme pressure to develop efficient new cultivation methods which require less space and preserve natural resources, while at the same time helping to remedy the major issue of food waste.
In the second part of Fruit Logistica’s four-part serialisation of the report, authors Marta Kwiatkowski and Christine Schäfer look more closely at how production links in the supply chain might adapt to, and overcome, such a challenge. Their findings suggest there are plenty of ways in which the industry might change. Agriculture is taking a big step towards full automation, a trend which has the potential bring about improvement in terms of efficiency as machines, plants and computers communicate and cooperate directly with each other.
Big data, precision cultivation or even so-called vertical farming, for example, could allow for significantly more efficient and more sustainable production. As new technologies change the way in which food is produced, innovations such as specialised harvesting robots and better input monitoring systems are already sowing the seeds of fundamental change. These scientific advances promise to open up new possibilities for farmers and producers all over the world.
With that growing potential comes growing interest too – especially in the distribution sphere. Tech companies with no previous experience in agriculture are planting roots in the industry, accelerating progress but also throwing down a challenge to existing players in the sector. Even Google, which no-one really associates with farming, is producing fresh vegetables in former shipping containers using Freight Farms’ Leafy Green Machine.
And as consumers vote with increasingly digital wallets for sustainable solutions that extend from production through distribution to areas such as packaging and logistics, the rapid rate of change in terms of the fresh fruit and vegetable trade’s production base is hard to ignore.
Part two of Fruit Logistica’s Fruit Trade 2025 report offers a valuable free tool for those looking to understand these trends. It’s available as a free download at the Fruit Logistica website.
Parts three and four will follow in May and June, focusing on distribution and consumer behaviour respectively.